Over the past month or so, you’ve likely seen mentions of endorsed candidates in our email newsletters. With the primary election now just weeks away, we felt it was a good time to explain the process SEA/SEIU Local 1984 follows to endorse candidates.
All political endorsements start with the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Political Education Committee, often called Poli Ed for short. Ken Roos, the chair of the Poli Ed Committee and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 first vice president, said any member can join.
“At convention, it’s one of the many committees that are listed that members can join,” he said. “All you need to do is ask to be on the committee, then I bring the name forward to the Board of Directors to officially appoint to the committee.”
When elections approach, the members of the Poli Ed Committee begin discussing endorsements. The committee members meet with some candidates, though they don’t end up holding meetings with all candidates.
“The major candidates — especially those that are newcomers — we’ll sit down and meet with,” Roos said. “When we meet with them, the session is open, so all members can attend, whether they’re on the committee or not. We’ll talk with the candidate about why they’re running and what their plans are, and based on that discussion we’ll decide whether to recommend to the Board of Directors that we endorse that candidate.”
Bringing recommendations to the Board of Directors, as Roos noted, is the next step in the process. The board then has an up-or-down vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendations.
Because the committee can’t possibly meet with all candidates, they will often take a candidate’s past record into account. Roos stressed that they’re not looking at the candidate’s party.
“We look at a candidate’s support of labor-related issues, rather than political affiliation,” he said. “We are really interested in their record, especially when compared to an opponent in a primary.”
Indeed, when looking at the list of endorsed candidates, there are many pro-labor Republicans in the mix. This can include lawmakers who have opposed right to work (for less), as well as candidates affiliated with labor unions.
“We will strongly back SEA members and family as well as members of other labor unions that have been vetted and recommended to us,” Roos said.
In addition to recommending candidates for endorsement, the Poli Ed Committee is also responsible for deciding which candidates to support financially using SEAPAC funds. In case you’re not familiar, SEAPAC is the SEA’s political action committee. Members can voluntarily contribute to SEAPAC, and that money is used to support candidates who are willing to stand up for public employees. It’s important to note that these funds, by federal election laws, are separate from union dues. In fact, no union dues can be used for political activity.
If you don’t already contribute to SEAPAC and you’d like to, or you’d like to increase your contribution, you can call the SEA/SEIU Local office at 271-3411 or call your field representative directly. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Poli Ed Committee, you can check out one of their meetings, which are typically held on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 8 at the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 office in Concord.